There is more or less unanimous agreement, in theory, that double jobbing should be brought to an end. However the DUP has hinted that it will backtrack on a previous commitment to abolish its dual mandates by 2011. Similarly, SDLP MP and MLA, Alistair McDonnell has indicated that he is content to double job for the foreseeable future. Clearly Northern Ireland’s politicians cannot be trusted, on their own initiative, to bring an early end to double and triple jobbing.
The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has already pledged to impose a solution as regards dual mandates, should he become prime minister. But there is no reason why Northern Ireland’s involvement in the party political mainstream need wait for the general election in order to pay dividends. The Tories have proposed a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland Assembly Bill which would immediately offer a strong disincentive against continued double jobbing.
Under the amendments, proposed by Shadow Northern Ireland Minister, Lord Glentoran, an MLA would be unable to claim a salary, expenses or allowances whilst he or she is an MP or MEP. In addition the Conservatives propose that a third party should set salaries, pensions and allowances for MLAs.
A recent Belfast Telegraph poll showed that 71% of Northern Ireland’s voters disapprove of double jobbing. Clearly this is a demonstrable example of national politics forming an important arena in which decisions which benefit Northern Ireland can be made. The Conservative party, on an election footing, is actively engaging with issues of importance to local voters, in order to attract their support. That is what normal politics is all about.